Land Rover Discovery 2005 review

Spending most of its life in and around city streets, our Discovery has had a relatively easy life for the past few months.

  • Towing power, huge cabin, rugged feel makes it suited to hard family use, great storage, refinement, view forward, French fuel prices
  • Hopeless fuel economy, sluggish performance, rear visibility down the flanks, seats need more support

Spending most of its life in and around city streets, our Discovery has had a relatively easy life for the past few months. So I decided it was time to shake things up a bit, and see if the Land Rover could earn its spurs on a 2,300-mile challenge.

With duties which included towing a speedboat, visiting a remote part of the Alps, hauling up to seven people and covering more than 700 miles a day, the Disco had a tough time on my two-week family trip to France. But it coped with everything magnificently well.

Some preparatory work was required before we left the UK, though. Stratstone Land Rover in High Wycombe, Bucks, fitted the tow bar (a £400 option) and adjusted the bi-xenon headlights so they delivered a flat beam. You can carry out the latter job yourself if you know what you're doing, and it means there's no need for ugly black tape on the lights.

Once on French motorways, the Discovery came into its own. The smooth, silent engine, excellent refinement and cushioned ride meant my two young children slept soundly. And although the front seats are rather firm and need more side support, they didn't induce any aches or pains in myself or my wife. Other welcome touches included the huge door pockets, double glovebox and plentiful centre console stowage - there's enough room for every- thing from sweets to toll cards. The chilled box under the centre armrest was also regularly used.

However, with plenty of time on our hands and hundreds of miles to cover, small niggles became more obvious issues. The lack of padding on the driver's door armrest meant a sore elbow, the side mirrors aren't curved at the edges, making rear three-quarter visibility awkward when chan-ging lanes, and the floor mats kept coming adrift. Meanwhile, the sat-nav is fiddly and frustrating - it's not as logical or straightforward as it should be - and the handle on the parcel shelf broke.

But when it came to hauling luggage and kids, the Discovery was faultless. I still think the Volvo XC90 I used to run was better in terms of interior flexibility and more car-like to drive. Yet the British off-roader's utilitarian feel means it seems more rugged - ideal for trips to the beach with a bootful of buckets and towels. Neither did the Volvo have such a generous back seat. In fact, two six-footers shared the Discovery's rear row with no complaints.

As a tow car, the Land Rover is similarly impressive. With the air-suspension at its lowest setting, we loaded up our speedboat in seconds. BK05 LLM dragged the craft out of the water with confidence and barely registered its weight when pulling. So capable is the Discovery in these circumstances that we never needed to touch Land Rover's highly regarded Terrain Response off-road driving system.

In short, the Disco acquitted itself brilliantly - with one exception: the horrendous economy. On similar trips, the XC90 D5 returned 31.1mpg, while a BMW X5 3.0d topped 33mpg. Yet the Disco averaged 22.9mpg. The best we achieved, on a downhill run out of the Alps, was 24.8mpg; the worst, mainly during low-speed and towing work near the south coast, was 21.1mpg. As a result, the trip cost around 470 Euros (£324) in fuel - and that's with France's average diesel price of less than 75 pence per litre. Even considering the Disco's talents, that's a heavy price to pay.

Second opinion

It's big, practical, desirable and powerful - but by rights the massive Land Rover Discovery should make a lousy commuter. However, trawling through the centre of London to the Auto Express offices on a near-daily basis has convinced me that, as cross-city cars go, the Disco is one of the best. If urban motoring today is all about insulating yourself as much as possible from the environment around you, the Land Rover excels.Dan Strong

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